The new "Bridge 19-40 Union Canal Society" was to operate between Bridge 19 (the first bridge in West Lothian) and Bridge 40, just before Linlithgow, taking in the town and villages of Broxburn, Winchburgh and Philpstoun.
Roseann was the Society’s only boat until 2006. In May 2006 she began to leak. Investigation showed that her metal base was showing the signs of her age and several small holes had appeared. She was taken out of the water and kept on a trailer whilst we discussed what to do with her. She was the Society's first boat and no one wanted to part with her but we couldn't afford the cost of the repairs.
After exploring lots of blind alleys, BAE Systems in Govan agreed to repair Roseann. But when they saw her they decided to build us a brand new boat! This they did to the same measurements as the old Roseann so that her canopy would still fit. We collected the new Roseann in September 2007.
We obtained our second boat, Bluebell, in a dilapidated state. She had been sunk and vandalised and her engine had seized. Founding members of the Society spent many hours lovingly restoring her from a neglected hull to the smart boat she is today, suitable for our public boat trips and charters.
Bluebell started life back in the 1970s in England. She was commissioned around 1977 by Claire Hanmer, founder of the Peter Le Marchant Trust set up in memory of her brother. Named ‘Minuet’, she was built by a company in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, and was the Trust’s second boat, launched in 1978, their second year of running. She originally sported livery of a navy-blue hull and scarlet upperworks, with a lift in the cratch which allowed wheelchair access. She served the Trust for around a year.
Rev. P. Hugh R. Mackay, Chaplain to the Order of St John in Scotland, was part of the embryonic Seagull Trust, formed in November 1978. He invited Clare to assist with public relations around the launch of the Seagull Trust, and she gladly obliged. Around that time the Peter Le Marchant Trust had decided to utilise wide-beam narrrowboats, as these better suited their requirements, and ‘Minuet’ was purchased from the by the fledgling Seagull Trust with the assistance of funds from the Order.
In honour of this ‘Minuet’ was 1979 was renamed ‘St John Crusader’ by the Duke of Hamilton, Prior of the Order of St John at a ceremony at Seagull Trust's site at Calder Crescent, Wester Hailes, Edinburgh. A berth was provided courtesy of Ronnie Rusack MBE, then landlord of the Bridge Inn at Ratho. She was the very first Seagull Trust boat and was used by them until 1996, when she was replaced by a wide-beam narrowboat, ‘St John Crusader II’.
‘St John Crusader’ was sold for the nominal sum of £500 to a community group in Wester Hailes to be operated as a community boat. She was renamed the ‘Calder Crusader’ and refitted for the group by the Army. Sadly, they were unable to maintain her, and she was left unloved for several years, during which time she was vandalised and sunk on more than one occasion.
In 2004 the Wester Hailes group agreed that the boat should be made available to a group who would appreciate and restore her and so in April 2004 the Bridge 19-40 Union Canal Society acquired her for a nominal sum and renamed her ‘Bluebell’.
‘Bluebell’ was restored over a period three years by dedicated volunteers from the Bridge 19-40 Union Canal Society, and in 2007 she was brought into service as our trip boat.
The Bridge 19-40 Union Canal Society is part of The Big Splash, an appeal to help support the many small waterway-based charitiesin our local communities to ensure their survival during these unprecedented times.
Due to the current Coronavirus pandemic, and the difficulty in maintaining social distancing on a narrowboat, we regret that we are still unable to offer boat trips in 2021. We can still be contacted by telephone, email or via our facebook page.
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